Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My cancer story

On 24th April 2015 my life was turned upside down and inside out. I went from 5th gear to reverse, with no gear changes in between. I was diagnosed as having oesophageal cancer, which was widespread and therefore inoperable. There was absolutely no possibility of a cure, so I was offered palliative treatment - effectively "we will try and give you some quality of life, and help you die well." My life expectancy was 6-9 months (deadline day is 24th January 2016.)

I underwent radio therapy, then chemotherapy, which nearly killed me, as I was in the verge on kidney failure. I had a five day stay in hospital as I was badly dehydrated, and my weight had gone from a chunky 90kgs down to a skinny 60kgs.

Fourteen weeks ago I came home and cried my eyes out as I told my family that I wanted to die. I could not eat solid food and was being fed entirely liquid nutrition through a tube which went down to my stomach via my nose. I had constant diarrhoea. Going to the toilet was an enormous effort, so I waited until I was desperate. Drinking a glass of water a day was in the "too hard" box. I could hardly walk, so started using a wheelchair. Seeing people for longer than 15 minutes utterly drained me. Life was simply too much effort, and I genuinely wanted to die.

Since then I have been put on a different chemotherapy regime. Today I am eating proper food again, and the nose tube has been removed. My weight has shot up to a healthy 73kgs - very unusual in cancer sufferers. My bowels are functioning normally. My kidneys are no longer on the "at risk" register! I returned the wheelchair, and walked a half-marathon a few days ago to raise money for the Cancer Society.  I attended a Conference which Church Army NZ hosted recently, and even managed to speak at one of the sessions!  I don't know if this improvement is mainly due to chemotherapy or prayer - I suspect both - but either way God is deeply involved.

So what exactly is going on?  My chemotherapy nurse today said "you are a completely different person. It is like a whole new life for you." But I have not yet been cured of cancer. I had a CT scan on Monday, and my oncologist told me the results today - all positive, the cancer is responding well - but he would not say WHAT it is responding too, chemo or prayer! He was not willing at this stage to change my prognosis - officially I have a maximum of 7 weeks left.

I do not know when I will die, but I have faced the reality of my own death, and I am at peace with that reality. I have enough faith for today. I have a far greater awareness of and appreciation for the tiny things which make up my life on earth - people (family, friends and strangers) food, drink, walks, meercats (courtesy of Emily and Auckland Zoo), good books, being able to poo properly, doing the ministry I love so much, bird song, the affection of pets, the incredible depth of my relationship with Jesus...I love life here and now, and I long for it to continue for a good while yet! I desperately want many more people to know and experience the love of Jesus which has sustained and upheld me during the darkest days, and which enables me to live life to the full now, a multi-coloured roller coaster adventure which contained moments of deep stillness and contentment.

21 comments:

  1. Great to hear Phil - am down in Dunedin today & was just chatting w/ James about you. Thanks for sharing - continue to pray for you all :)

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    1. I am long overdue a visit to Dunedin - better warn James!

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  2. As a fellow traveller on the path - one of several we've walked together! I found this a reassuring and hopeful and helpful read. You've beaten the odds so far and given your attitude and the climate of prayer in which you are enveloped if anyone has a chance of continuing to beat the odds it's you. But that's not the point. The grateful acceptance of all God gives us is the point and this includes acceptance of His loving decision as to the optimum length of this part of our eternal journey. But here's the irony. Facing death without fear seems to release all manner of bonds- physical mental and spiritual and serves to both prolong our life and improve its quality. You seem in this passage to be a man at peace. I am watching your progress, continuing to pray for you and hoping that one day maybe we can take another extended stroll together.

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  4. Wonderful to read your blog Philip. What a journey! So thankful to God you are where you are today- physically, mentally and spiritually. We continue to pray for you and your family. Love Mary xxxx

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  5. You are an inspiration, Phil. You & Monika are a gift from God. I am so grateful you started me on the T4T journey. Thank you for being obedient to God by coming from the UK (& Germany!) to NZ. You are at the forefront of a move of God in our land. You have helped lift our sights to the realities of heaven. We thank God for the strength He has given you for today. We anticipate a bright tomorrow for you as Christ is revealed through your life to others. May He give you many more disciples while you are here. Rich blessings & love to you & Monika & family. I pray many happy moments around the Christmas holiday BBQ time!!!

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    1. Thanks Geoff - the encouragement and prayers if yourself and many others makes a massive difference.

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  6. Phil thanks for your honesty about the depths of despair and the new hope and energy you have found. Since your move to New Zealand 7 years ago God has taken you on a journey which has inspired and impacted many - including us in Burnside. The last 7 months have been part of that journey, and the months ahead will certainly be too. Praying for you during this Advent and Christmas season.

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    1. Thanks matt, it is odd living in such an uncertain place, though it helps with re-prioritising. Hope to meet your little one before long!

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  7. My sister shared your story as a prayer request and you and your family have been faithfully in my prayers since!! Praise God for His daily miracles in your life!!

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    1. Thank you - we are so very aware of an army of people praying for us, many of whom we don't even know. And what a massive difference it is making.

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  8. My sister shared your story as a prayer request and you and your family have been faithfully in my prayers since!! Praise God for His daily miracles in your life!!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your heart, Phil. I feel it a privilege to know you and Monika. Regarding the CT scan we continue to walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT seen. I heard of a brother who had his optic nerve severed, which should have meant he was completely blind. After prayer, the optic nerve was still severed according to the X-ray. But he could see!

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  10. Phil, Monika and family,
    I am so pleased to read that Prayer and Medical intervention has had such a positive effect upon your body physically. It is also great to hear that you are faithfully trusting God for your daily provisions of life and sharing His Good News through your blog and other ways, even though you have been through the darkest periods of your life.

    I want to assure you that I have been and I am continuing to pray for yourself and the family daily that you would experience God's Healing, Presence, Peace and His Love.

    Have an amazing Christmas with those whom you love in the knowledge that Your Saviour is watching over you and also within you.

    God bless you all from John, Joanne, Nathan & Thomas O'Neill

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    1. Thanks John & family, I am feeling so incredibly well and want to share that, but my prognosis hasn't actually changed at all, so my biggest fear is that people stop praying!
      Phil

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  11. Dear Phil and Monika and Family
    It is wonderful to hear your latest news,but be assured that the prayer machine continues daily...

    All our love

    David and Pip

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    1. Thanks David, keep that prayer machine well oiled!

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  12. It’s a nice story and full of inspiration. Being an army nurse is a challenging job, so it must be a great passion that makes one can pass all the difficulties.

    Nursing Jobs

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